Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Indian court dismisses opposition leader Rahul Gandhi's petition – The Diplomat


Had the court stayed the conviction, Gandhi would have been reinstated in Parliament.


An Indian court on Thursday rejected opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s plea to stay his conviction in a criminal defamation case that resulted in his expulsion from Parliament.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gandhi, his main challenger in the 2024 elections, were last month sentenced by a court to two years in jail for defamation for mocking Modi’s surname in a 2019 election speech.

The jail sentence was suspended earlier in April by a court in Modi’s home state of Gujarat for the duration of the appeal process.

A man who shares the prime minister’s surname, which is common in Gujarat, accused Gandhi of defamation for a speech in which he asked, “Why are all thieves nicknamed Modi?” Gandhi then mentioned three famous and unrelated Modis in the speech: a fugitive Indian diamond tycoon, a cricket executive banned from the Indian Premier League, and the prime minister.


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The petitioner who filed the case is a member of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat, but is not related to Modi as the prime minister or the other two mentioned by Gandhi.

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The Press Trust of India news agency reported that Judge RP Mogera, who dismissed the petition, said Gandhi “should be more careful with his words” as he was a member of parliament and head of the opposition Congress party. ,

A stay on Gandhi’s sentence would have opened the way for his parliamentary seat to be restored. But he can still seek a stay on the sentence in the High Court.

Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters that Gandhi would soon challenge the court’s decision in a higher court. “We are confident that the High Court … will correct these legal errors,” he said.


Under Indian law, a criminal conviction and a prison term of two years or more are grounds for expulsion from Parliament. Gandhi was disqualified soon after the ruling in March, dealing a major blow to the Congress party ahead of general elections next year.

If the court does not overturn his conviction and two-year sentence, Gandhi risks losing his eligibility to contest elections for the next eight years.

The prosecution of Gandhi, the great-grandson of India’s first prime minister and scion of the dynastic Congress party, was widely condemned by Modi’s opponents as the latest attack on democracy and free speech by a government seeking to crush dissent. The speed of his expulsion from Parliament shook Indian politics.